Besides Baku, energy minister planning Beijing visit

Production Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis is preparing to make an official visit to Beijing, according to sources, following the minister’s likely trip to Baku this Thursday for a South Stream conference. An exact date for the minister’s visit to Beijing has yet to be determined.

If he does attend this week’s conference in the Azeri capital, Lafazanis will meet with his counterparts from Bulgaria, Albania, and Croatia, as well as highly ranked European Commision officials.

The Greek minister met in Athens last week with Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Greece, Rahman Mustafayev for talks on an unfinished agreement, reached by Greece’s previous administration, for a 66 percent sale of DESFA, Greece’s natural gas grid operator, to Azeri energy company Socar, as well as the developing TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) project, to carry Azeri natural gas into Europe.

Lafazanis’s agenda for his prospective trip to Beijing remains unclear. In the lead-up to Greece’s January 25 snap elections, Chinese officials had contacted the Syriza party, then still the main opposition party, for discussions on Chinese investment initiatives in Greece, including in the energy sector.

China’s SGCC was one of four participants in an international tender for the privatization of IPTO, Greece’s Independent Power Transmission Operator, a process now already considered dead following the newly elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s policy announcements, which rule out the sale of all state networks.

In pre-election contact with Syriza party officials, SGCC had pointed out that it was not exclusively interested in acquiring a stake in IPTO, but was also open to other forms of collaboration concerning the country’s electricity network infrastructure.

Besides taking part in privatization attempts for IPTO and Greek ports, Chinese companies have also expressed a wider interest to invest in various Greek sectors, such as energy – in general – metallurgy, transport, and processing.